In the earliest period there were only inscriptions from A.D. 575 onwards. Nannaya's (1022--1063) translation of the Sanskrit Mahabharata into Telugu is the piece of Telugu literature as yet discovered. The diction is so masterly that historians think that there must have been earlier works in Telugu. After the death of Nannaya, there was a kind of social and religious revolution in the Telugu country.
Virasaivism propagated bhakti towards Siva as the only means of attaining salvation. Tikkana (13th century) and Yerrana (14th century) continued the translation of the Mahabharata started by Nannaya. Yerrana was also a devotee of Siva. Quite a few poets continued writing in Telugu and we come to the age of Srinatha.During this period, some Telugu poets translated Sanskrit poems and dramas, while others attempted original narrative poems. The popular Telugu literary form called the Prabandha, was evolved during this period. Srinatha (1365--1441) was the foremost poet, who popularised this style of composition (a story in verse having a tight metrical scheme). Srinatha's, Sringara Naishadham is particularly well-known.
We may also refer to the Ramayana poets in this context. The earliest Ramayana in Telugu is generally known as the Ranganatha Ramayana, though authorised by the chief Gona Buddha Reddi. Then there were the great religious poets like Potana (1450--1510), Jakkana (second half of the 14th century) and Gaurana (first half of the 15th century).
The golden period of Telugu literature was the 16th and 17th centuries A.D., Krishnadevaraya's Amuktamalayada is regarded as a Mahakavya. Peddana's Manucharitra is another outstanding Mahakavya. Telugu literature flourished in the south in the Samsthanas like Madurai, Tanjavur etc., and that is why the age itself was called the `Southern Period'. We find a comparatively larger number of poets among the rulers, women and non-Brahmins who popularised the desi metres.
With the conquest of the Deccan by the Mughals in A.D.1687, there ensued a period of decadence (1750--1850) in literature. Then emerged a period of transition (1850--1910), following a long period of Renaissance. The Europeans like C.P.Brown played an important role in the development of Telugu language and literature. In common with the rest of India, Telugu literature of this period was increasingly influenced by the European literary forms like the novel, short story, prose, drama, belles-litters, etc.
The father of modern Telugu literature is Kandukuri Viresalingam Pantulu (1848--1919), who wrote a novel, Rajasekhara Charitamu, inspired by the Vicar of Wakefield. He was the first person in modern times to use literature to eradicate social evils. He was followed by Rayaprolu Subba Rao, Gurazada Appa Rao, Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Katuri Venkateswara Rao, Jashuva, Devulapalli Venkata Krishna Sastry, Sri Sri, Puttaparty Narayana Charyulu and others in the sphere of poetry. Viswanatha Satyanarayana had won the coveted Jnanapith Award.
``Kanyasulkam'' (Bride-Money), the first social play in Telugu by Gurazada Appa Rao was a thumping success. We also find the progressive movement, free verse movement and Digambara style finding expression in Telugu verse. The well-known modern Telugu novelists were Unnava Lakshminarayana (of Malapalli fame), Viswanatha Satyanarayana (Veyi Padagalu), Kutumba Rao and Buchchi Babu. Telugu is specially known for its daring experiments in the field of poetry and drama.
Urdu, another important language of the State and spoken by the Muslims is Indian in origin. Though many words in it found their way from the Arabic and Persian, it has always been true to the idiom of the western Hindi dialect. It was ``the language of the Exalted Court'' at Delhi in the Mughal period. It acquired the shortened name `Urdu' and became the handmaid of the Persian culture in India.